The sale of pictures is intended to save the Langmatt Museum. Through research at Christie’s, shortly before the auction, it became clear that the Cézanne still life “Fruits and Ginger Pot” has a problematic origin. PR disaster or happy coincidence?
Do the works have a looted art background? In order to clarify this question, the management of the Langmatt Museum in Baden decided around a year and a half ago to have some of the paintings in the collection examined more closely.
Some of the most renowned provenance researchers in Switzerland were hired. The three paintings by Paul Cézanne, which will be auctioned in New York next week, were also examined. The result: The most valuable of the paintings had the first indications of a potentially problematic origin.
New proof of origin found
Further research at Christie’s then provided the decisive clue, says museum director Markus Stegmann. There was also a lot of luck involved. “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. You can search for years and you won’t find anything. And you can search for an hour and suddenly you have found something,” says Markus Stegmann.
The needle in the haystack in this case was an index card. It provided evidence that Cézanne’s still life “Fruits and Ginger Pot” belonged to the German-Jewish banker Jakob Goldschmidt before it was purchased and became part of the Langmatt Collection.
Markus Stegmann says there is evidence that Goldschmidt’s business in Frankfurt was no longer doing well because of Nazi persecution. It is therefore likely that Goldschmidt only sold his Cézanne because he had to make ends meet somehow.
In legal terms this is called a “loss caused by Nazi persecution”. The painting, of all things, from which those responsible hope to save the Langmatt Museum financially, was suddenly burdened.
Damage to your image or a happy turn of events?
The museum management therefore quickly negotiated a settlement with Goldschmidt’s heirs. Shortly before the auction, which is already highly controversial. All of this could be viewed as a PR disaster.
The planned auction
The auction of the three Cézanne pictures from the Langmatt Museum will take place on November 9th at Christies auction house in New York.
Museum director Markus Stegmann contradicts: “No, that doesn’t damage the image at all. Quite the opposite.” It doesn’t happen every day that a museum comes to an agreement with its heirs and the negotiations sometimes take years. An agreement in this short time would be “very positive,” said Stegmann.
He emphasizes that the Langmatt Museum approached Goldschmidt’s heirs on its own initiative. The settlement that has now been concluded covers all possible claims of other relatives.
Painting will still be auctioned
The picture does not now go to the heirs, but can be auctioned. Stegmann does not want to say anything about the amount of the settlement. And he only answers indirectly the question of where the financially struggling museum got the money for such a settlement: “The contract is crucial. It’s signed. That’s why the agreement is finalized. The payment – or what you make – will be made at a later date.”
At a later date – one could interpret: after the auction. Markus Stegmann is confident about the sale of Cézanne’s “Ginger Pot”. Paintings for which the legal claims of heirs have been clarified generally even sell better.
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